Class 12 English Flamingos

Keeping Quiet

Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve
And we will all keep still

In this poem, the poet explains the need for taking time off from our busy life because all of us need some quiet time to introspect.

For once on the face of the Earth
Let’s not speak in any language
Let’s stop for one second
And not move our arms so much.

The poet says that for a moment let us not do anything. Let us not even utter a single word. Let us remain in a static position and not move even an arm.

It would be an exotic moment
Without rush, without engines
We would all be together
In a sudden strangeness

When you will keep still for a moment, it would be an exotic moment in the sense that there would be no adrenalin rush, no pressure to meet the deadline. When all of us will maintain a moment of stillness everybody shall be together in a sudden sense of strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
Would not harm whales
And the man gathering salt
Would look at his hurt hands

Everyone would stop and nobody will even bat an eyelid. Fishermen would not harm whales at that moment of stillness. A worker working at the salt factory will get time to look at his hurt hands which have been suffering from corrosive effects of salt all through these years. It can be another worker, may be working at a bangles factory, who will get time to look at his fingers burnt from intense heat of the furnace.

Those who prepare green wars
Wars with gas, wars with fire,
Victory with no survivors,
Would put on clean clothes
And walk about with their brothers
In the shade, doing nothing.

People who always indulge in scheming about wars will get time to think about peace. Modern day wars are being fought on various fronts, like oil embargo, cutting gas supplies, banning imports from a particular country, etc. Such wars are generally the handiwork of a handful of politicians, diplomats and bureaucrats.

What I want should not be confused
With total inactivity.
Life is what it is about
I want no truck with death.
If we were not so single-minded
About keeping our lives moving,
And for once could do nothing,
Perhaps a huge silence
Might interrupt this sadness
Of never understanding ourselves
And of threatening ourselves with death.

The poet says that a moment of stillness should not be confused with total inactivity because life is all about continuous activity. Even when someone is sleeping, all the systems of the body keep on working. The poet says that he does not want to be associated with death. The main goal of keeping stillness for a moment is to come out of sadness of never ending struggles in someone’s life. This is the moment when one gets a chance to understand oneself.

Perhaps the Earth can teach us
As when everything seems dead
And later proves to be alive.
Now I’ll count up to twelve
And you keep quiet and I will go.

The poet says that the Earth can be a great teacher for us to learn maintaining life even in stillness. When everything on the earth appears to be dead, it springs back to life. This is evident from evolution of life after various rounds of mass extinction on the earth.